Tag Archives: Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

Third time Lucky

James Nesbitt heads to the Far East for a third season of Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, which continues the story of a man bestowed with the power of eternal luck. DQ meets him in Hong Kong to find out more.

This is a first. Drama Quarterly is invariably transported to a television set in the back of a cramped and slightly run-down production minibus. But today is rather different; we are being taken to visit a location on a sampan from Hong Kong Island.

As we look out over a marina filled with the sort of superyachts that even Russian oligarchs might covet towards some of the most expensive property on the planet, we could get used to this.

The sampan deposits us at The Jumbo Floating Restaurant, the most famous eatery in the country. The giant six-storey barge, festooned with elaborate carved wooden animals, is being used as a location for a key scene from Stan Lee’s Lucky Man.

Hong Kong is “full of noise, people and bustling street food stalls” says Nesbitt

At the venue, which has also been employed as a location in movies such as Skyfall and Internal Affairs 2, more than 50 supporting artists have gathered. They are being dressed up to play waiters and market traders selling fruit and vegetables, cooking utensils and dumplings. Meanwhile, a stunt rider is revving his motorbike in preparation for a daring sequence along the upper deck of the restaurant. The producers are really giving this scene some welly. The whole scene is redolent of authentic Hong Kong life.

The barge is the location for a complex fight sequence at the restaurant between the show’s hero, Harry Clayton (James Nesbitt) and new enemy Samuel Blake (Rupert Penry-Jones).

In this entertaining series created by comic book genius Stan Lee (who is also behind Spider-Man, The X Men and Iron Man), Blake has arrived in Hong Kong in search of Harry. This implacable baddie will stop at nothing to take possession of the bracelet that gives Harry the superpower of being eternally lucky. The fact that Blake is impervious to pain only helps his villainous quest.

Pausing for breath between scenes while wearing both shin and forearm guards for rehearsing the fight sequence, Nesbitt says that he couldn’t be happier to be in Hong Kong. “We’re here today in the home of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan doing fantastic stunts,” he says. “It’s absolutely brilliant!”

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man airs on Sky One in the UK

This third season of Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, currently airing on Sky One in the UK, captures the vivid essence of Hong Kong, a breath-taking mixture of Eastern and Western cultures. It is a unique ambience that would be simply impossible to conjure up at Shepperton.

Nesbitt underscores that this Hong Kong-set season could not have been shot anywhere else. “This place is a one-off,” enthuses the actor, who has also starred in Cold Feet, The Hobbit, The Missing, Bloody Sunday, Five Minutes of Heaven, Occupation and Murphy’s Law.

“It’s so exciting to be filming here. You have the joy of immersing yourself in a new and vibrant culture. Hong Kong is a fabulous city to set this show. The entire place has a real sense of urgency. Visually, it’s stunning too. It has these extraordinary skyscrapers and also this astonishing street life. You only have to look out of the window to see the real collision between the wealthy and the not so wealthy. It’s teeming with all kinds of life.

“Yesterday we were filming at the famous Temple Street Night Market,” the Northern Irish actor explains. “It’s a fascinating place, full of noise and people and bustling street food stalls. Then you peer into a backstreet kitchen and you see topless male chefs smoking. It’s a place like no other. Hong Kong is one of the leading characters in this series of Stan Lee’s Lucky Man.”

James Nesbitt sees the character of Harry Clayton as “at his core a good man”

Chen On Chu, a producer on the series – produced by Carnival Films in association with POW! Entertainment and distributed by NBCUniversal International Distribution – agrees that it would be unthinkable to recreate the atmosphere of Hong Kong anywhere else: “If you shoot in a live location like the Temple Street Night Market, there are elements that you just can’t replicate anywhere else in the world. You can never reproduce the density of the people or the look of the Hong Kong buildings on a backlot in the UK. The texture of this show is very authentic.”

Which is not to say that there are not immense challenges involved in filming in Hong Kong. Chu, who has previously worked on many enormous Hollywood productions in Hong Kong, including Batman: The Dark Knight, Transformers, Battleship, Ghost in the Shell, Geostorm, Lara Croft and Pacific Rim, is all too well aware of the difficulties. “It is really challenging filming here because it’s such a busy place,” he adds. “We might have 50 trucks on a production, and it’s really not easy to find a parking space for them. We have to tell the crew they can’t drive to the set.

“Also, the space here is very limited and it’s really hard to divert traffic, so it’s very difficult to close roads for filming in Hong Kong. We had a joke that the only time you could film The Fast & the Furious in Hong Kong would be when there was a street protest and the roads were closed anyway!”

Rupert Penry-Jones (right) plays new villain Samuel Blake in season three

Nesbitt concludes by reflecting on just why Stan Lee’s Lucky Man has proved so popular over the past two seasons. He reckons that one of the principal reasons is because Harry represents a very British type of superhero. “At his core, Harry is a good man,” the actor muses.

“But he is still the very last person who should be a modern-day superhero. He is flawed, of a certain age and a gambling addict. He is a very unlikely superhero. It’s especially unlikely to have a 53-year-old Northern Irish superhero who says, ‘Fecking eejit’!”

Finally, are there any similarities between Nesbitt and Harry? “Clearly there are bits of me in him,” the actor admits. “I recognise the isolation he feels. There are certainly times in my life when I’m away from home and on my own. I also really love his dryness. But unlike Harry, I have never been a big gambler.

“That’s one of the few vices that has escaped me – thank God!”

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The Durrells delight on Sunday night

The opening episodes of The Durrells have won over critics and viewers alike
The opening episodes of The Durrells have won over critics and viewers alike

These days, a lot of emphasis is placed on the audience’s ability to time-shift TV. But there’s no question there is still an important role for dramas that can do a job in a particular slot.

Right now, for example, The Durrells (based on Gerald Durrell’s classic Corfu Trilogy of novels) is doing a brilliant job for ITV in the UK at 20.00 on Sunday evenings.

Although the show is only three episodes old at time of writing, it already feels like it has been sitting in ITV’s schedule forever – offering exactly the kind of escapism many of us crave the day before the working week kicks in again (depending, of course, on the country where you reside).

Not that The Durrells should be regarded simply as popcorn TV. It is beautifully adapted by Simon Nye and the acting is really, really good. Keeley Hawes, who plays the mother (Louisa) of author Lawrence Durrell, naturalist Gerald Durrell and their two siblings, is superb, displaying immaculate comic timing and eye-watering sensitivity. Also impressive is Daisy Waterstone as Gerald’s sister, Margo (none of which is to disparage the other cast members).

The show is currently scoring a rating of 8.0 on IMDb, which is pretty good – and it is proving popular with critics. Gerard O’Donovan in The Telegraph applauds it for its “warmth, nostalgia, beautiful locations” and calls it a “gem.” Christopher Stevens in The Daily Mail gives it five stars, adding: “Perfect Sunday night viewing requires period costume, exotic locations, a dash of sex (but nothing explicit) and lashings of laughs. Sounds simple on paper… but it’s pretty near impossible to achieve on screen. But The Durrells was a masterclass in ideal Sunday telly – never too demanding, and yet completely satisfying.”

Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul has been given a third season on AMC
Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul has been given a third season on AMC

All of this positive feeling is backed by great audience figures. The first episode launched with 6.4 million viewers, making it ITV’s best-performing new drama since Cilla in September 2014. It has since consolidated to 8.2 million viewers (33% share) – showing that it is also possible to transfer the Sunday night feeling to other times of the week.

ITV knows it’s on to a good thing and has commissioned a second season from producer Sid Gentle Films. Sid Gentle CEO Sally Woodward-Gentle said: “The combination of Gerald Durrell’s warm, witty stories and Simon Nye’s brilliance at adapting them meant we knew that we had created something special. The reaction has been fantastic and I am delighted we are able to continue the story and reunite the fantastic cast and crew who have become a close-knit ‘family’ on and off screen.”

Filming on season two will take place later this year in Corfu. In other news, the show has been picked up by SVT Sweden, which may have been tempted by the fact that one of the central characters is a hunky Swede called Sven (Ulric von der Esch).

In the US, AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul finished season two on April 18 with a season average of 2.16 million viewers across 10 episodes. The show stayed pretty solid around the two million mark for the whole season and has been rewarded with a third season during which Breaking Bad’s urbane drug dealer Gus Fring will return.

In terms of comparative performance, the show rates better than Mad Men (which ran for seven seasons) and Hell On Wheels (five). It also has an impressive 8.8 rating on IMDb.

The Night Manager's US debut was somewhat disappointing
The Night Manager’s US debut was disappointing

Last week, we looked at the success of John Le Carré adaptation The Night Manager on BBC1 in the UK and asked how it would fare when it switched to AMC in the US. The show has now started airing stateside, where the same-day showing of episode one attracted 0.93 million.

This is a fairly modest opening that suggests it isn’t going to make much impact with US audiences. As a comparison, Humans debuted with 1.73 million on AMC after a strong showing on Channel 4 in the UK. It then fell to around the 1.1 million mark for episode two and stayed there for the rest of its run.

In other words, its retrenched position was stronger than The Night Manager’s opener. The Night Manager also scored quite low with the 18-49 demographic on its AMC debut.

Of course, a modest US opening shouldn’t detract from the quality of the show. It may just be that AMC’s audience is attuned to a different style of scripted content.

It’s also worth noting that The Night Manager has been sold to networks all around the world. The latest deals for the show include agreements with Chinese streaming service Youku Tudou and French public broadcaster France Télévisions. The drama has previously been sold to the likes of Tele München Gruppe for German-speaking Europe, C More and TV4 for the Nordic territories, DR for Denmark, Sky Italia for Italy, BBC First and SBS for Australia, TV3 for New Zealand and AMC International for Iberia, Eastern Europe, Russia, Asia (excluding Japan), Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

The Shannara Chronicles
The Shannara Chronicles has been renewed despite middling performance

This week has also seen MTV in the US renew its fantasy series The Shannara Chronicles, despite the fact that the series has not achieved especially high ratings. The first run of 10 episodes came in at about 890,000 on average, with the back end occasionally falling below the 800,000 mark.

Mina Lefevre, executive VP and head of scripted development at MTV, said the production team “delivered a beautiful, ground-breaking show with compelling stories and character journeys, which brought in new viewers.”

Further underlining Lefevre’s ‘new viewer’ argument, part of the reason MTV is sticking with the show is its performance on digital platforms, “where it garnered 16.6 million streams across all MTV’s digital properties and brought significant traffic growth to the MTV app,” according to the company. “The series also ranks as the highest-grossing digital download for a single season on MTV ever.”

As we’ve reported in previous weeks, a number of shows see their performance improve dramatically when time-shifting and digital viewing are added to the total. American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson on FX had a huge three-day ratings gain for its finale episode (up by 2.91 million viewers to 6.18 million).

In the UK, it was a similar story for new Sky1 crime drama Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, starring James Nesbitt. Episode one of the 10-part series launched in January and delivered an overnight audience of 600,000. But the total figure for the episode rose to 1.74 million as the audience took the opportunity to watch via Sky+ recordings, On Demand and Sky Go.

This increase of 1.14 million was the biggest growth in viewing figures that the first episode of any Sky original drama series has ever achieved in the week after transmission. It also made it the best performing original drama series launch on Sky1 for nearly four years. This underlines the point that, in the new TV economy, there are some shows that are perfect for certain slots (such as The Durrells) but others seem to work well as schedule-neutral programming.

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